U.S. Representative Michael Waltz, along with five other Republican members of Congress, are calling for a federal investigation into the Florida Democratic Party’s (FDP) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) application after the party attempted to pocket at least $780,000 in small-business loans.
Waltz and members of the Florida congressional delegation, which includes U.S. Representative Neal Dunn, Bill Posey, Brian Mast, Ross Spano, and Greg Stuebe, wrote a letter to the Inspector General of the U.S. Small Business Administration on Thursday, citing possible “criminal misconduct” from the FDP.
“The Small Business Administration issued regulations that specifically prohibit ‘businesses primarily engaged in political or lobbying activities’ from receiving PPP loans. Despite this restriction, the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) applied for and received a PPP loan worth $780,000,” the letter reads. “The details of the FDP loan application raise serious questions as to whether the applicant intentionally misled the Small Business Administration in order to obtain PPP funds.”
The PPP, which was created by Congress in March to assist small businesses in keeping staff employed through the coronavirus crisis, was applied for by the FDP in April. The party attempted to funnel the $780,000 PPP loan through the FDP Building Fund – which has no employees – and then move the money back to the FDP to pay the salaries of staff members, despite political parties being explicitly excluded from eligibility for the program.
“The fact that FDP— which was ineligible for PPP funds — applied for the loan via the Florida Democratic Building Fund, Inc. and the money was subsequently transferred back to support FDP’s payroll raises questions as to whether someone at FDP knowingly made a false statement on the PPP application in question,” the letter continues.
After swift backlash from Republicans and Democrats, the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida reportedly returned the loan, but have yet to provide proof.
“The FDP admitted it had applied for a loan to keep employees on payroll, despite FDP Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo’s intense criticism of the program, calling it a ‘disaster,’ the delegation said in an accompanying press release. “The party still has not proven whether it’s returned the money or revealed who filed the application.”
The letter requests the U.S. Small Business Administration begin a full investigation of the loan, a referral to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution if warranted and for all documents and communications reviewed during the course of the investigation to be made available.
Congress created the PPP to help small businesses, not line politicians’ pocketbooks.@FlaDems‘ fraudulent PPP loan is a slap in the face to those small businesses and to taxpayers everywhere.
This is why I’m calling for a full federal investigation into their illegal loan: pic.twitter.com/F5D4IZjdQE
— Rep. Michael Waltz (@RepMichaelWaltz) October 9, 2020
Knowingly making a false statement on a PPP loan is punishable by a maximum of five years’ imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine.